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Tampon Shedding & Fiber Loss: Tampons Leave Something Behind?

We love the convenience and ease of tampons. Most of us remember the first time we were able to use one successfully. Tampons can let you participate in activities that are impossible with pads while on your period (like swimming). A lot of us have to deal with a menstrual cycle for a long time, so we always look for comfort and the best-constructed brands of tampons when filtering through many period product options.

Sometimes, however, our favorite feminine products can do us dirty, especially if we aren’t using a quality brand. Any menstruating person can only do so much research on tampon manufacturers before purchasing tampons. 

Tampon shedding is a little-known issue you’ve probably experienced without even knowing, but in some cases, tampon shedding can lead to pesky infections. 

Here’s what you should know about tampon shedding and fiber loss and how you can know whether or not it’s happening to you. 

How Tampons Work

Tampons work by absorbing your period flow from inside your vagina. Unlike a pad, which catches your flow once it leaves your body, a tampon sits just inside your vagina and uses absorbent fibers to absorb and prevent leaks. 

Tampons are constructed with a core made from either cotton, rayon, and sometimes even wood pulp. The surrounding fibrous layers are also made from either cotton, rayon, or a blend of both. When you insert a tampon, the fibers expand up and down and sideways to absorb your flow. 

When it is time to remove your tampon, the cotton string can be used to pull it out. But what happens when everything you put in doesn’t come out when you pull the string?

What Is Tampon Shedding?

Tampon shedding is what happens when some of the absorbent fibers that make up the outer layers of your tampon become detached from the tampon and end up in your vagina. We know it sounds scary to think about bits of tampon fibers living rent-free in your insides, but it’s typically not something that will cause you much harm. 

Tampon shedding can happen during any time of your period when you wear a tampon. Even if you’ve been wearing a tampon correctly and safely all day, the next one you use could shed without warning. 

Relax, we’ve got the information you need to prevent it from happening and make sure you’re on guard in case it does. 

What Causes Tampon Shedding and Fiber Loss?

There are few reasons why your tampons may lose fibers. Most of these can be avoided by using high-quality tampons. 

Using the Wrong Absorbencies

One of the biggest reasons a tampon may shed fibers inside your body is because you aren’t using the right absorbency. Specifically, you’re using a tampon that is much too big for the flow you have. 

You know the feeling you get when you remove a tampon that isn’t quite full? It can feel dry, irritating, and kind of like it is scraping your insides. When you use a tampon with a higher absorbency than you need, the outer layers of absorbent cotton fibers don’t fill. 

The fibers then stick to the insides of your vagina, separating from the tampon when you attempt to remove them. This causes them to stick inside of you instead of coming out with the rest of your tampon. 

Using Low-Quality Tampons

Not all tampons are created equally. Some tampons aren’t constructed with cores that are tight enough to keep the entire tampon intact. This can leave room for the tampon to pull apart. 

Rayon also tends to separate more than cotton. If you are using a tampon that has blended rayon and cotton, you are more likely to experience fiber shedding than a 100% cotton tampon. Some rayon blended tampons have protective covers or linings over them to prevent this, but the linings, too, can become detached from the tampon and end up somewhere you don’t want them. 

The best option is to use 100% organic cotton tampons, like the ones we offer at Rael. Our tampons don’t contain any harsh chemicals, weird coverings, or blends. We use a careful process to construct our tampons so that they do what they’re designed to do: give you great absorbency and protection without harming your body or leaving any trace of their existence behind.

Leaving Your Tampon In Too Long (Or Not Long Enough)

Most tampons are designed to be used for about 4 to 6 hours. Leaving a tampon in longer than that isn’t smart and will put you at risk of an embarrassing situation (like a leak).  

It’s always a better idea to take a tampon out sooner rather than later, but if you take a tampon out before it has a chance to absorb any of your flow, there’s a chance it could leave dry fibers behind. Sometimes friction can occur when using tampons; it just depends on the person.

What Can Happen If My Tampon Sheds?

Don’t worry. If your tampon sheds, it’s probably not that big of a deal. In fact, if you’ve been wearing tampons for a few years, it’s probably already happened, and you didn’t even notice. 

The majority of the time, if a tampon sheds fibers inside your vagina, your vagina will naturally flush them out. The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven. Each time you have your period, anything that the uterus or vagina needs to shed comes out with your flow. 

If you have a tampon that has shed in the vaginal canal, chances are the fibers will come out with your flow, and you’ll be completely oblivious to it. 

However, if you’re repeatedly using tampons that are prone to shedding, or if your tampon sheds a large fiber that isn’t easily pushed out, you could be at risk of developing vaginal infections. 

  • Toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock syndrome, or “TSS,” is a rare condition that can happen if a foreign object introduces bacteria into your body. Once bacteria have been introduced, a toxin can be released into your bloodstream. It is sometimes associated with tampon usage, but the chances of developing TSS from a tampon are extremely low, especially if you are careful to remove them within four to six hours of insertion. 

    Some symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include fever, diarrhea, sunburn-like rash on the palms of your hands or on your feet, headache, low blood pressure, and body aches.

    The symptoms of TSS are not to be taken lightly, as they can harm your overall health if left untreated.

    A few of the bacteria strains associated with TSS are staph bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.

    However, if your tampon sheds fibers that aren’t removed, there is a small chance you could develop TSS. It would be more likely you’d develop one of the infections below, but because TSS is serious and can be life-threatening, it’s important to know about it. 
  • Yeast infection. If tampon fiber loss causes any disruption to your regularly scheduled programming, it’s probably going to cause a yeast infection. Yeast infections can happen easily because yeast is already present in your vaginal microbiome.

    When a tampon sheds fibers, it creates a nice little habitat for yeast to grow. When there’s an overgrowth of yeast, you develop a yeast infection.

    Symptoms of a yeast infection can include white, chunky discharge, itching, and burning in and around your vagina, and irritation. Thankfully, there are treatments available, and you can even get relief at home.
  • Bacterial Vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis, or “BV,” is an infection caused by an overgrowth of another type of bacteria that lives in your vagina. Some people are more prone to developing BV than others. Still, anything that makes it easier for bacteria to multiply (like a shred of tampon fiber) can cause this bacteria to overgrow, creating an infection. 

    Symptoms of BV can be unpleasant. Fishy odor, greyish-green discharge, and burning, and itching are all symptoms associated with BV. You may need to see your doctor for treatment, but there are also at-home remedies to get relief from symptoms fast.

    Most of the time, a few stray tampon fibers won’t cause an infection, but here’s how you can avoid tampon shedding and make sure it isn’t happening. If you suspect any vaginal infections, it is best to visit your ob-gyn for a diagnosis. Leaving infections untreated can lead to illness and severe health complications.

How To Avoid Tampon Shedding

Keeping your vagina clean and clear of loose tampon fibers is easy. Here’s what you should do to make sure your tampon isn’t leaving its business card inside your body. 

  • Always use high-quality tampons. You know Rael has you covered with the best period care products available. Our 100% organic cotton tampons are crafted with care to be gentle on your body and give you peace of mind. 
  • Use the right absorbency for the job—your flow changes from day to day. Make sure you’re adjusting your tampon sizes accordingly. 
  • Do a self-check. When you’re done using tampons at the end of your period, perform a self-check with your index finger to make sure there aren’t any large fibers present. 

    Remember, most of the time, a few stray fibers from a tampon are harmless to your body and will remove themselves naturally, along with your period flow. 

Get Rael

Tampons can still be your favorite period care product, but if you don’t want to worry about fiber loss, you can check out Rael’s entire period care lineup. Rael offers absorbent tampons, among other period care products. From reusable silicone menstrual cups to easy-to-wear disposable period underwear, Rael has a solution for everybody and every period. Be empowered by your period with Rael. 


Sources:

Toxic shock syndrome - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic 

Vaginal Candidiasis | Fungal Diseases | CDC 

Bacterial Vaginosis: What is it, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic
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